ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Fertilizers and sediment can often enter stormwater systems, especially in the summer months when yardwork is common. Fertilizers contain many nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are beneficial to lawn growth.
However, excessive nutrients in our waterways can promote overgrowth of algae and plants through a process known as eutrophication. Increased amounts of algae and plant growth can lower the amount of oxygen in the water and block sunlight at the surface, ultimately harming the natural habitat that fish and other aquatic animals need to live.
Fertilizers can be difficult to stop from entering stormwater drains after they have left your lawn, so it is important to use preventative measures to keep the fertilizer on your lawn, where it was intended.
To reduce fertilizer runoff, try some of these lawncare techniques:
- Use compost and other non-chemical alternatives as fertilizer.
- Look for fertilizers labeled as “slow release” and “water insoluble.”
- Apply fertilizer quantities according to the manufacturer’s instructions – do not over apply.
- Leave grass clippings on lawn, as these act as a fertilizer and help to keep moisture in the soil.
- Do not apply fertilizers or other chemicals if rain is predicted within 24 hours.
In addition to fertilizers, eroded sediment from bare spots and yard work has the potential to runoff into the storm drain system. Erosion is most likely to occur in areas of your yard of little to no vegetation, where there is not a strong root system to hold the soil in place.
Sediment can build up in pipes and channels, which interrupts the flow path for stormwater drainage. Sediment also causes our waterways to become cloudy, which harms aquatic.
To help prevent erosion, try some of these lawncare techniques:
- Seed bare spots and cover using mulch.
- When tilling or applying new sod your lawn, use straw or erosion control blankets.
- Add mulch to garden areas.
- If near a creek, avoid mowing within 25 feet of the creek bank.
- Sweep sediment and lawn clippings from sidewalks and driveways and dispose of them properly.
Another way to help prevent fertilizers and sediment from entering stormwater systems is by reducing runoff. Be mindful not to overwater your lawn. This can over-saturate the soil, reduce air flow, lead to erosion, and produce excess water runoff.
In fact, watering your yard infrequently encourages deeper roots to develop and leads to an overall healthier lawn. Only 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week is needed. Reduced watering can also save you money on your water bill.
For more information, call (478) 222-8411.
Stormwater Straight Talk is a quarterly column intended to educate and inform base personnel and families about stormwater management.